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Sunday, January 16, 2011


I have, in general, sought to keep a positive tone in this blog. Truthfully, I've been seeking to keep a more positive tone in my life in general. Some days, I succeed. Some days I don't.

This post is not going to be positive. It is, in fact, likely to be extremely negative. And it's a rant. It is not intended to edify, educate, or otherwise improve anyone's day. It is intended to get some shit off my chest. It's stuff that's been festering for a while now. If reading this helps you clarify something,or if you enjoy reading it just for the fuck of  it, great. If you don't want the negativity in your life, then I understand. Hell, I don't want it in my life either.

Final disclaimer. If you are reading this in the hopes that I will call someone out, or accuse particular people of bad behavior, I have no intention of doing so. Go away.

NOW then.

I've written before about my skepticism about the martial arts and their ability to "develop character". Though many martial arts instructors make bold claims about how their arts elevate people's spirits, or teach them about honor, integrity, and other words that they read about in a book about the Samurai, I've seen a lot of behavior that suggests to me that, in fact, it's all bullshit.

I've tried. I've tried very hard NOT to believe that. To believe that a good teacher CAN instill those values. And, in fairness, I believe a good teacher CAN instill values like honor, integrity, and whatever else. But it has nothing to do with martial arts. A good football coach can teach the same thing. So can a good ballroom dance instructor, history teacher, physics professor, or parent. Martial artists don't have some magical license on teaching values because they dress up in funny uniforms and practice beating each other up.

In fact, in my experience, martial arts seem to be filled with a lot of people who have the ethical and moral compasses similar to those of a group of stereotypical twelve year old girls. Honor is talked about, but no one bothers to define what the hell it is. Loyalty is said to be prized, but students leave instructors, instructors abandon students, and everyone talks shit behind every one else's backs. ALL THE TIME. I have no doubt that people talk shit about me on weekly basis. Maybe even a daily one, though that seems a little bit self-important.

But hey, if I'm self-important, then I learned how to be self-important through the martial arts. I learned that it's okay to talk about loyalty and honor and standing together, but that if something that looks like it's a little better for you, then FUCK THOSE GUYS and you get what's yours! Doing whatever you have to do to get ahead isn't a concept for self-defense. It's a way of life in this culture. And once you get ahead, make sure you know it, and make sure you make those who come behind you know that they are behind you, and that they will always be behind you, because lord knows, if they think they can get ahead, they'll step all over you. After all, you did it to the guys behind you.

Yeah, that's right. You got ahead by crushing the guys behind you. By making sure that you were the best of the pack. Guess how you get to be the best in a martial art? You show that you can beat the crap out of other people. That's what this is, remember? It's a lesson in how to beat the crap out of people. You don't think that's selfish? It's totally selfish. You are beating up another human being. Whether you think there's good reason to do so or not, that's a pretty selfish action.

Does martial arts teach you about integrity? No, it sure as shit does not. I've seen guys talk nice to a man's face, only to badmouth him as soon as he was out the door. The amount of passive aggressive, he said, she said bullshit on the internet and in person among these people is astonishing. My wife looked up one night and said,  "geez, for a bunch of tough guys, there's a lot of gossip and bullshit". How fucked up is that?

I know, I know. There's gossip and bullshit in all circles. But at least, in those circles, the people involved don't then turn around and act like they're some pack of moral paragons, who have descended from heaven to enlighten the rest of the poor mortals with their great wisdom of the ages.

I've seen families turn on each other. Not metaphorical families, but real, honest to G-d, blood relations. I've seen guys who called each other brothers suddenly bitter enemies. And someone, no matter who you talk to, they are always in the right. It's always the other guy who was the bad guy, always the other person who is in the wrong.

And I'm sick of it all.

Perhaps I'm excessively sensitive to this sort of thing; my parents divorced when I was very young, and so I spent my whole life dealing with issues about familial conflict and separation.

But fuck's sake, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of losing friends and training partners to squabbles that I'm not even a part of. I'm sick of wondering if it's okay that I email this person, or how this other person will react if I talk to them. I'm tired of hearing how this guy talked shit about that guy, how this person betrayed this other person, on and on and on. It's like middle school all over again, except that this middle school is populated by a bunch of kids who like to call themselves "warriors",  even though most of them have never put on a uniform or put their lives on the line for anything. And hey, I haven't either, but I sure as shit don't think I'm a "warrior". Dressing up in funny clothes and practicing beating people up doesn't make you a warrior, and it sure as shit doesn't make you some fucking reincarnated Samurai master. At best, it makes you an amateur or professional athlete. At worst, it makes you a LARPer who can't just bring himself to admit that he wants to be LARPing. (Note: I have nothing against LARPing. Hell, some of the LARPer's I know are more stable, and frankly, better human beings, then some people I've met through the martial arts.)

A very long time ago, I was ignorant of this stuff. I worked out with a couple of small groups of people, good friends who got together and learned stuff. Some days, I really miss that feeling.

I know I can't change any of it. I know writing this will not make any of it better. For all I know, it will just generate some extra shit for people to say about me. Or about other people.

I don't care anymore.

I care about teaching, and teaching well. So that's what I'll do. Put my head down, and teach, to the best of my ability. I have no illusions that I will be perfect, but hopefully, I will be good. Hopefully, I will help more people than I harm.

I will stand by the things I believe in. I will be friends to those who are friends to me. If people like that, great. If they don't, that's great too.

But I'm done with the conflict, the gossip, the crap. It's useless. It serves no function, save to weaken, destroy, and upset me. Really, it weakens and destroys all of us. I wish more people would remember that.


Mike Panebianco said...

Great post Jake. I think that is why I am taking sabbatical from teaching for a while. I am going back to my roots, training for fun, and maintaining friendships.

I look forward to seeing you again soon.


Functional Edge System said...

Great Blog Jake. Sorry you are going through crap. You can always call or drop me a line.
Check out:

Leave comments say hi. be well brother.

Jake said...

Thanks for the feedback guys.